Ask any group of musicians what something like “music education” comprises and you’d certainly receive a vast array of responses about everything from études to instrument maintenance. However, an entire area of a performer’s “musical life” – and one that is receiving growing attention in both private studio and public settings – involves looking after that one instrument that cannot be replaced or upgraded – the artist’s physical self.
The Artists’ Health Alliance (formerly the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation) is one such organization in the business of educating artists, including performing musicians, about the maintenance of physical and mental wellness throughout an artistic career. A not-for-profit charitable group working in partnership with the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, the AHA hosts workshops addressing issues from injury prevention to stress management to nutrition. Likening their work to the type of specialized treatment that professional athletes require, the AHA serves as a helpful resource for performers seeking health education (or treatment) that takes into account their unique career-based needs.
Considering the specialized nature of this often-costly type of treatment, the organization is also dedicated to providing artists access to financial resources, including details about available subsidies and cost-effective healthcare coverage. The AHA also advocates a school outreach program, through which they have run workshops at schools such as OCADU, the Randolph Academy, U of T and York University.
Navigating the question of how to live healthy is a lifelong process, and not one unique to arts workers. However, the enormous set of physical and mental challenges that performing musicians can face is something that does deserve ample attention. Though health education opportunities for professional musicians often seem to fly under the radar, a service that allows performers to continue doing what they love for as long as possible is certainly not one to be under-valued.
The next event on the Artist Health Alliance’s calendar is a series of workshops on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, running most Tuesdays from September 23 to November 25. For those interested, more information about this series and on the AHA is available at artistshealth.com.